daily Broadcast

A Theology to Believe

From the series The ART of Survival

Do you believe God is good? Do you believe He has a plan for you, that’s the best plan - out of all the possible scenarios? Perspective is the key to overcoming any circumstance that threatens to bring us down. How do we get perspective? In this message, Chip reminds us that God is good and His plan is the best - based on the promises of scripture.

This broadcast is currently not available online. It is available to purchase on our store.

The A.R.T. of Survival Album Art 600x600 jpg
Chip Ingram App

Helping you grow closer to God

Download the Chip Ingram App

Get The App

Today’s Offer

The ART of Survival Resources on sale now.


Message Transcript

Well, welcome to part three of our series, The Art of Survival. And, boy, don’t we need to survive and even thrive in these kind of days? This is part three, it’s all from James chapter 1.

And as I begin, I want to tell you an apocryphal story. This is not a true story; it was made up. But it has a very powerful point. The legend goes that Satan went into the market and he was having a big sale of all of his tools, tools he used to blind unbelievers, but even more importantly, he had some tools to render Christians, especially leaders, people really walking with God, just to absolutely ruin their faith.

And so, he had a broad spectrum of multiple tools and he had a price tag on each one of them. And all the junior demons were invited to come and buy these different tools to help them as they would persuade and deceive Christians and unbelievers alike.

There was one very, very small box that had an astronomical price. It was so high that all the demons said, “It’s such a small, little box. What could be in that little box that’s worth that much?”

And Satan said, “What’s in that box is discouragement, because it’s more useful to me than all the others.” He said, “I pry open men’s heart and I get inside of them and I can get near to them with this tool like no other. It’s badly worn because I use it almost all the time. But since few people know it really belongs to me, I deceive them, I discourage them, and I get them to give up or to give in and render them powerless in this fight against the enemy, the King, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And so, a cute story but a lot of truth to it. In fact, discouragement I think is the number one destroyer, especially at times like this, that undermine us. And that might sound like an exaggeration unless you’re one of those people that has really been discouraged, that has felt like giving up, giving in, I can’t do this anymore.

As I was praying about it early this morning and thinking of my time to get to talk with you, I thought of one of the seasons, very much like now, where the things that held me up, there were health issues. And then there were ministry issues. Then there were financial issues and there were family issues. And I felt like it was a time in my life where I was seeking and praying and pursuing God like never before and it just was getting worse and worse and worse.

And I actually, it was about ten years ago and I dug this journal out this morning. I wrote, “For twenty months I have clung to a passage and a promise in Psalm 25. The journey has been characterized by pain, injustice, betrayal, the stripping of the old, new insights into my pride, into ministry metrics that don’t focus so much on the number of people that do this or that but leading into new processes and strategies and focus and energy that really have to do with life change, while at the same time experiencing absolute desperate dependency.

“We’re broke, personally and as a ministry. We have no office, no staff to speak of, no clear direction for teaching, a future that is uncertain and unknown, and we are forced to live simply by faith and the clear conviction and pain that we must move forward to helping Christians live like Christians with what we have, which is little; with where we are, which is difficult; and with God who brought us here. I have been tempted many times to give up. I have felt deeply, deeply discouraged. And I have battled feelings of hopelessness in the midst of this journey.”

That was ten years ago. And as I look back now at what God did, I realize that He had to work deeply in me before He was going to work significantly through me. I had to learn what we have learned in part one and part two about considering it all joy when nothing feels or looks joyful. I had to come to the point where I said, Lord, I don’t know what to do. I don’t have any money. I don’t have direction. Difficulty is at every turn. I need Your wisdom. And He gave it.

And now what I want to ask you is: where are you at? How are you doing with discouragement? And what discourages you? The definition of discouragement is to deprive courage, hope, or confidence. It’s the lack of courage. Courage is that thing that wells up inside of you that says, “The circumstances don’t matter. The opposition doesn’t matter. I am going to press forward. I am going to follow Christ. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, no matter what happens.”

Discouragement is when you lose heart. Discouragement is that feeling when you say, “It’s not worth it. Nothing will ever change. I can’t go on. I’m powerless.” It’s that feeling that just screams, “Just quit. Just give it up. Just compromise. Take a shortcut.”

So let me ask you before we begin the teaching time here and get into how to slay the dragon of discouragement, I want to you ask you: where are you at in terms of what discourages you? What person? What circumstance? What is going on in your life or in your thoughts? What is happening in your country? Where are you in your life right now that you would say, I mean, very specifically, “This is discouraging me. These are the thoughts that are coming into my mind that make me want to say, God, I just can’t do this anymore. I give up.” What is going on? I want you to get it down very specific and very clearly, because God is going to take His Word today and He is going to speak to that very specific discouragement in your life and in mine.

Discouragement is the number one destroyer of God’s plans for our lives, just before we receive God’s highest and best, many of us throw in the towel. I have had some times and I have counseled so many hundreds of people, right before there’s a breakthrough in their marriage where it gets resolved, where they learn to forgive, and where they love, so many quit and separate or get a divorce.

Right before there’s a huge answer to prayer, whether it’s finances or an open door in ministry, just before that happens, so often, many give up and they quit. Just before God is at work and the habit, the addiction, the struggle that it has just been a stronghold in your life, God is working, working, working, working and just before He answers and delivers, so many people give up.

And what I want to say to you is we are going to learn how to slay the dragon of discouragement and God is going to give us a plan. He is going to answer: how do you survive when you’re tired, when you have tried, when you have worked, when you have prayed, when you’re exhausted, and everything in you says, “I just can’t take it anymore.”

God says, “I have an answer for you.” He has an answer for me. And He has a plan. And the plan begins with an attitude. It all begins with our attitude. God’s will in adversity is this attitude: joyful endurance. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result that you might be perfect or mature, lacking in nothing.”

And then the second thing He gives us is a resource. In the midst of not knowing what to do, in the midst of not having answers and battling discouragement, He says, “Here’s a resource. God’s promise in the process is supernatural wisdom.” He is going to give you insight into the best possible ends by the best possible means for the most possible people for the longest possible time.

He says in verse 5, “But if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it will be given to him.” Condition, “But let him or her ask in faith without any doubting. For the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded, unstable in all his ways.”God tells you and me in the midst of our discouragement He will show you what to do and how to do it to get through your greatest challenges.

And then the third thing in God’s plan isn’t just an attitude and it’s not just a resource of supernatural wisdom.He is going to say, “I’m going to give you a truth, a theology if you will, about life and about circumstances and about the future. And when you get this clarity, this truth, it is the thing that will allow you to slay the dragon of discouragement.”

He writes, “But let the humble brother in his humble circumstances glory in his high position, and let the rich man glory in his humiliation,” why? “because like flowering grass he will pass away,” speaking of the rich man. “For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed. So too, the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.”

And then he gives this admonition, this hope, this reward, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been tested and is approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him.”

God’s prescription, His truth to persevere, to not give up is this: a divine perspective. There is a truth, there is a theology about life – here’s life. God says, “I want to give you a lens to look at life and your circumstances. I want you to see things through the kingdom lens.” In the practical lens, rich people, powerful people, people with position, with homes, with money, with security – they are the ones that have it made.

He’s going to say, “No, in God’s kingdom lens, actually, the opposite is true.” Those who have little actually have a high position. And then he’s going to explain why. Let me take a moment and just explain this passage and then from it, I want to give you three very specific principles that will allow you to hang in there when things get tough.

He says, “Let the brother of humble circumstance,” this word is socioeconomic. He’s not talking about character or humility. He’s saying, basically, let someone who doesn’t have very much money, “glory,” and the word means to boast or take joy or rejoice and say, “Wow! Look what I have!” So, “…in your high position.”

And I don’t know about you, but I have studied the Bible for a number of years and I remember reading and studying the entire book of James and looking at each paragraph teaching through the whole book and for years, honestly, getting to verses 9 through 12, especially 9 through 11 in chapter 1 – and we do this, don’t we, who study the Bible, especially some of us who teach it, and just scratching my head and thinking, I don’t get this. What’s with this little section about poor people being, having a high position and rich people having a low position and then this promise of reward?

Well, follow along. It’s super insightful. One of the things I have learned about studying the Bible, if there’s something in a passage that at first doesn’t seem to make any sense, chances are it’s very profound and this is one of those passages.

So he says to those of us that don’t have very much, or for those of you that don’t have very much, I’m thinking maybe because of COVID you’ve lost your job. Maybe you have lost your business. Maybe you’re in a country right now that things are very, very difficult. I mean, super challenging like you don’t have food. I mean, he says to those who have little to boast and to rejoice in your high position.

And what he is doing is saying, “I want to give you a perspective from heaven about looking at life through this lens of faith.”

Here’s his point. He’s going to say, “When we don’t have anything, our high position is we are automatically dependent. We automatically turn to God. We automatically pray.”

When I read this from my journal ten years ago, when I said I was broke, I wasn’t exaggerating. No money. I have had seasons where I have sat in the car with my family, we had no money, we had no food, and we bowed our head and said, Lord, You said that You would promise. It was literally after a church service. And we literally had nothing. And as we prayed and while we were praying, toward the end, we heard a knock.

It was the first time I went to this church. We had just moved to that city to prepare for ministry. And someone we didn’t know that apparently sat behind us and saw a young family, knocked on the window, we rolled down the window, and they said, “Excuse me, do you all have plans for lunch? We would love to bring you to our home for lunch.”

You see, we didn’t pray in the car because we were being spiritual. We didn’t pray in the car because we thought, Oh, this is important. Let’s be good Christians. We prayed in the car because we had no money and nothing to eat and I had three kids in the backseat.
What he’s saying is, as hard as it is to face, when we are low socioeconomically, we are rich in faith because we are pre-positioned to be dependent, to trust God, and to seek Him.

And then he says to those who are rich. And the idea in the New Testament being rich is I have enough for today, enough for tomorrow, and I may have even savings for the future.

In other words, the person who basically has their own security. Many in America listening to this, and many around the world that are watching and listening to this would say to themselves, By biblical standards, I may not think of myself as rich, but I’m rich. I’m not worried about: can I eat tomorrow? Or do I have a roof over my head?

And he says to those who are rich, “We should glory,” now my season has changed, I need to glory in my low position. I need to realize that spiritually, I am at a very big disadvantage, because money is powerful. And money can provide false security. And money can create idols. And money can create expectations. And money can get us thinking that we can live our life our way without God.

And so he says we have to willfully choose. I need to get up and say, Lord, I need You. I choose to depend on You. Because the fact of the matter is, if I didn’t pray today, I have enough money in the bank to eat for this week and next week and probably next month. I don’t have to pray.

And so, he says rich people are in a more challenging spiritual situation. And then he gives this reason, “For the sun rises with a scorching wind and it withers the grass; the flower falls off.” In other words, life is temporary, life is transitory, life is a vapor, life is a breath.

And he says the low position of rich people and many people are experiencing this right now is that a few months ago, things were great. Now you don’t have a job. I talk to men who have spent the last twenty years building businesses and investing money with this idea that they are retiring, and they are secure forever and ever. Are you ready? In the last four or five months, COVID-19, it’s gone. It’s gone.

And so, what he’s saying to us is that you can’t trust in these things because of the nature, the transitory nature of life. They fade away. And then he says “Blessed,” and this word is an inner quality of happiness not dependent on circumstances, “is the one who perseveres.”

Now, are you ready for this? If you have your Bible, circle that word persevere, and then go up at the top of chapter 1, remember where it says, “Let endurance,” it’s the same word. Hupomeno. “Blessed is the man, blessed is the woman who, under pressure, under stress, under discouragement, under spiritual opposition, under difficult circumstances, under finances that you don’t know what you’re going to do but you refuse to give up, you refuse, “I’m going to trust,” he says as you endure and persevere, under trial and the exact same word as in the earlier part.

“Blessed is the man who, with these external trials, once you have been approved,” notice, the word here is for a test. And he says, “Once you pass the test…” You know what passing the test is? It’s being faithful to your calling. It’s not giving up. It’s not giving in. It’s not caving into temptation. It’s not compromising. It’s not saying the ministry is not worth it. It’s saying, “I’m going to hang in there in this difficult marriage.” “I’m going to hang in there in this ministry.” “I’m going to hang in there with this difficult situation with my boss or a supervisor.” “I’m going to hang in there in this difficulty because I’m called by God to be faithful to Him.” I refuse in the power of the Holy Spirit to give in or to give up.

And he says once you’ve been approved, you’ll receive the crown of life. And this is great. Grammatically, this is the crown namely life. It’s, yes, we are going to get crowns and there’s going to be rewards for believers. But the emphasis here is the crown, namely life. This abundance.

When you persevere and do not allow discouragement to sabotage your life, there is a quality of life, there is an intimacy with Jesus, there is a power, there is a faith, there’s a courage, there is a life experience that other people don’t get.

He says you’re going to receive the crown of life, not just now, but with future reward as well, which the Lord has promised, notice to whom, to those who love Him. To those who say, Lord, my loyalty, my loyalty is to you. It is hard. It is difficult. It is painful.
Now, what I want to do is I want to take the truth of this passage and I want to develop three very practical, specific principles to help you slay the dragon of discouragement, or as I like to say, hanging tough in tough times demands first that we get God’s perspective on our circumstances. How do you do that? By looking at our circumstances through the eyes of faith.

That’s exactly what He calls us to do. Look at your current circumstance. Remember? What is it that is discouraging you? What is it that is difficult and painful right now that you just think, I can’t take it. I can’t take it.

Look at it through the eyes of faith. What is it that God is going to do because you are trusting what you can’t see, you’re trusting His promises, you’re trusting His character? How do you do that exactly?

Well, you need to understand that the Lord has you in a position to develop a work in you that is primary and even more important than the work through you. So, don’t get discouraged. Just, by faith, remember I wrote: for twenty months. There’s a passage in Psalm 25 that God gave me that said, “Chip, I will instruct you in the way in which you should go.” And for twenty months I’m going, Lord…

And you know what He gave me? “Here’s what you do today. Here’s what you do today. Here’s what you do today.” I kept saying, What about six months? What about six years? What about ten years? Lord, I have visionary gift. I need to know where I’m supposed to go. And what He said is, “I’ll show you what you need to do today and I will give you grace to do it today.”

And what I didn’t realize, I had no idea that God’s purposes for my family, my marriage, my children, my grandchildren, and the ministry – they were going to expand and expand and expand and when God is going to do something wide through you, He first has to do something deep in you.

And when God wants to do something deep in you, He has to remove the pillars and the dependency of your arrogance and your pride and your trust in people and wanting the affirmation of others. And He will strip you in ways for your good because you are so precious. But it is painful.

So, in your discouragement can you say, if it looks like I have little, you should boast in your high position because you are dependent. And I would love to say, I would love to say it, and after thirty-five years as a pastor, I would love to tell you this is true, but it’s not. I would love to say that when things are going well and when they’re easy and when all the relationships are good and circumstances are wonderful and we have lots of money, that we just trust God, that we go to deep levels with the Lord.

The fact of the matter is all of us, all of us have to have seasons where God takes the things that we trust in and He sets them aside so that we have Him. Just Him.

And God is doing that right now. He’s doing it in the world. He is shaking people, He’s shaking communities, He’s shaking the Church, He’s shaking the world. The question is: will we listen? Will we humble ourselves and be dependent?

So, the first thing we need to do is look at our circumstances through the lens of faith.

The second thing we need to do is get God’s perspective on our future. And how? By looking at our future through the lens of hope.

See, our hope if it’s in the now, if it’s in what I can see, if it’s in the ministry, if it’s how people are responding to me, if it’s in my bank account, if it’s in things going well or not going well, my circumstance, what did we learn? It goes up and it goes down.

He says, “You need to take what you are experiencing right now, whatever is discouraging you,” and he goes, “I want to give you another new set of glasses. After the glasses of faith, you set those down, and now you put on the glasses of hope.”

Listen to what the apostle Paul said, “Therefore we do not lose heart though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For the light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight that outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on not what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal, and what is unseen is eternal.”

He tells them, I’m telling you this after I have been shipwrecked, I have been beaten about three times, I’ve been left in the sea.” I mean, he is viewing all of his temporal difficulty, pain, circumstances through a lens of hope and what God is preparing for him, not just now, but forever.

The third thing that we need to do is get God’s perspective on our circumstances, God’s perspective on our future, and now God’s perspective on our motivation, by looking at our motivation through the lens of love.

Here’s the question – and this is different for all of us and this is very personal, so I want you to lean back. I want you to really think for a moment before you would immediately answer. Am I willing to enter into the fellowship of His suffering? Are you willing like the apostle John and the apostle Peter to consider it a privilege and a joy to suffer for the sake of Christ?

You see, in the early Church, as they were beaten and taken in by the Sanhedrin and they went back there in Acts chapter 2 and 3 and 4 and told the other believers what happened, they were filled with joy, being counted worthy to suffer for the Lord.

It’s out of loyalty. The apostle Paul would say, “I want the fellowship of His suffering.” There is something about a love for the Lord Jesus that when you are suffering because you refuse to give up, refuse to give in that is very, very precious.

And what I would have to admit to you is that sometimes when I have worked hard, I have tried hard, I have prayed hard, I have ministered hard and circumstances don’t get better and I don’t feel better and candidly, I’m not very happy and I wish God would change things and change them faster, what I have to admit privately is that my motivation is really about God working my life out instead of me being willing to experience whatever I need to experience for me to express my love to Him.

I remember a number of years ago teaching a seminar. I was in Hong Kong at the time and was meeting with a group of pastors and that evening I had dinner with a pastor who was a, happened to be a house church leader – an evangelist. And he was telling this story and we had helped him with some resources and helped him with what he was doing in terms of discipleship.

And as he was traveling doing evangelism, the church was meeting in his house and the Communist party came, it was a remote area, and his wife said, “No, no, I’m the pastor. I’m the pastor. None of these people were here.” And she got all the people to leave and they took her down to the police station and for two days, they beat her to a pulp.

And he came back from his evangelistic trip and found what was happening and I’m listening to this story and in my mind’s eye, thinking about my wife. My wife’s name is Theresa.

And as he’s telling this story I’m just thinking, Boy, if someone did that to my wife I don’t know if I could keep my faith. Boy, I would just…
And I’m having all these emotions and anger and retribution. And he finishes the story and when he gets done with the story, very calmly, he looks at me and my friend and he says, “Can you imagine that God would count us worthy to get to suffer for Him?”

And I was too embarrassed to say the emotions and the thoughts that I had. But I want to ask you that. These are the times that we are living in. Is our love going to be loyal?

As we wrap things up, let me help you evaluate a little bit where you are and to remind you that you can slay the dragon of discouragement. You are not a victim. Victims have self-pity. Victims look through the lens of “me”. A victim looks through the lens of now. Victims look at, “Are things going well?” Survivors don’t.

Survivors have an attitude and we count it all joy, whether we feel like it or not. Survivors don’t know what to do, but we have God’s wisdom and we will take it one day at a time. And survivors get an eternal perspective, a divine perspective, a theology – a way of thinking about life and circumstances and the future and our relationship with the Lord in terms of our motivation.

And because of that, here’s the deal, you can overcome discouragement, but you have to fight.

So, could I ask you, remember when we began this teaching time I said, “What person, what circumstance, what specific thing was really discouraging you? And I asked you to get it really clear in your mind.

Before I go on and give you some practical tools, where are you struggling? From what I have shared so far, what is God saying to you today? What does it look like for you to look at life, your life, your sadness, your disappointment, your challenge, your heartache through the lens of faith, through the lens of hope, through the lens of love?

Let me give you a couple handles that I think will help. Number one, reevaluate your circumstances and here’s the test: is my faith in things that are perishable or in things that are permanent? Just pause for a moment. Your faith. What are you trusting in? Are you trusting in things that are perishable or things that are permanent?

I remember, again, in China speaking to a pastor Lam of many years ago. And he was beaten and tortured and the church grew. And so, they put him in prison and the church grew even more. And so, he got out of prison after many years and he had almost like a treehouse, I remember, and he had speakers and just hundreds of people would gather to hear him preach and proclaim God’s Word.

And the officials came at that time and said, “We are going to kill you,” and he smiled at them and he said, “You torture me, the church grows. You put me in prison, the church grows bigger. You kill me, the church will explode.” Do you hear it? His faith isn’t in what was perishable. His faith is in what is permanent.

I was talking to one of our partners who does ministry in the Middle East and you may know that the fastest growing Church in the world is in Iran. And they came out of Iran and did some teaching and they were growing in their faith. And as they were ready to go back into their country, one of the ladies said to the trainer, “Before we go back into our country, would you teach us to die well?” She understood. She understood what they were going to do and what they were going to share, in all probability, is going to cost them their life. They wanted to die well.

I sat across the table from a young doctor who had a contract on her life. She was in Yemen and the Church has exploded in the midst of that civil war. And she was making her way to another country to be safe.

And she was young, maybe thirty, thirty-one. And she just looked at me and goes, “I know I won’t live very long.” And she didn’t say it with any sense of self-pity. It was a sense of, “This is my calling in life. There is more to life than right now.” My question is: do you believe that? Does your behavior, does my behavior, declare that?

For those of us in the First Word, I have a very good friend who has gone broke a couple times and made a lot of money, I guess, probably three times now. And this big COVID situation and all that it does to the financial markets and all the rest and I asked Him, “Well, how are you doing?” And he looked at me and he said, “It really doesn’t matter. It’s just money.”

In other words, they are numbers on a sheet of paper. Over time, he has come to actually believe and understand that money can’t make you, money can’t break you. He is looking at life through the lens of faith.

Second is to reevaluate where your focus is. The test here: is my hope determined by the size of my problems or the certainty of God’s promises? I mean, is your hope where the promises are? Those problems are getting smaller. Or is it these big promises of God? Where is your hope focused?

The apostle Paul, writing to the Romans, and they have their share of struggles. The Roman Empire is persecuting Christians. And he says to them, “For everything that was written in the past,” the Old Testament, it instructs us or teaches us, “that through,” listen carefully, “endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus so that with one heart and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And then he quotes a number of Old Testament passages, about four or five, about the inclusion of the Gentiles. And then he ends with verse 13 of chapter 15, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

In our dependency, I’m going to challenge you, one of the things that God wants to do is break down some of our preconceived ideas and our focus. For then it was Jew or Gentile. For some of us, it’s Black and White. For others, it’s different tribes. For some of you in different countries, though you love Jesus, there is this division, there’s this prejudice.

God wants to take us to this place of dependency that brings about unity. He says He gives encouragement and He gives – what? Endurance. How? Through the Scriptures.

Here’s the question: where is your mind going? Does your mind focus on the problem, the problem, the problem, the problem? Or are you focused on the promises, the promises, the promises?

As I shared before, one of the reasons I memorize Scripture, one of the reasons I renew my mind, one of the reasons I sing and worship out loud is I want to fill my mind and my heart with the truth and the promises of God so I could look at the very challenging and discouraging circumstances in a fresh way – God’s way. You see, it’s perspective.

Finally, we reevaluate our motivation. And the test is: is your primary motivation and the motivation of your heart to love Christ or simply experience relief and get what you want for you? This is a hard one to be honest with. But as I shared, I think the brothers and sisters that I have met around the world have taught me more about a pure love than anybody else in the world, because they – there is very little hope for any financial gain or fame or life getting better.

They do what they do, they experience what they experience, and you all suffer what you suffer because you love the Lord Jesus.

As I close, when you start to get discouraged, are you ready? I just want you to remember three words. That’s all you need. Three words. As you struggle, the ART of survival, word number one is FAITH. God is in control. Word number two is HOPE. You are His child. He has a place, a plan, and a promise for you. And the last word is LOVE. Suffering is a chance and a privilege for you and for me to express our love for the Lord Jesus.